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These Striking Images Show Indian Women Shaving Their Heads In The Name Of Religion

Tamil Nadu's Thiruthani Murugan Temple draws thousands of women each year, who sacrifice their hair in the name of religion. That hair is essential to the wig industry worldwide. This photo series captures the process from prayer to sales.

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The Thiruthani Murugan Temple in Tamil Nadu sees people of all ages, especially women and children, getting their heads shaved to sacrifice in the name of religion. The process of shaving one's hair and donating it to the gods is known as tonsuring. It is common for Hindus to tonsure their hair at a temple as children, and also to celebrate a wish coming true, such as the birth of a baby or the curing of an illness. The 'temple hair' is then auctioned off to a processing plant and then sold as expensive wigs and weaves in the U.S., Europe and Africa. Here are a few striking images from photographer Allison Joyce's trip to Thiruthani as she captured the people and the process that has now become an intrinsic part of the global wig trade.


Allison Joyce / Getty Images

59-year-old Laksmi has her head shaved at the Thiruthani Murugan Temple in Thiruttani, India. Her daughter was sick but she got better, so she wanted to show the Gods her gratitude by shaving her head.

Allison Joyce / Getty Images

Parents wrestle their daughter into place so that her hair can be donated to the Gods at the Thiruthani Murugan Temple in Thiruttani, India.

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Allison Joyce / Getty Images

28-year-old Rupa has her hair shaven to donate to the Gods at the Thiruthani Murugan Temple November 10, 2016 in Thiruttani, India. Rupa donated her hair with the wish that her daughter's illness is cured.

Allison Joyce / Getty Images

28-year-old Rupa and her children pose for a photo after having their heads shaven at the Thiruthani Murugan Temple in Thiruttani, India.

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Allison Joyce / Getty Images

A worker processes hair at Raj Hair International in Alinjivakkam, India. All of the hair they export comes from Tamil Nadu, 1/4 of which is temple hair and the rest comes from comb waste that people sell.

Allison Joyce / Getty Images

A worker hand makes a wig at Raj Hair International November 11, 2016 in Alinjivakkam, India. Raj Hair International donates wigs to cancer patients in India and also exports hair products, including weaves and wigs, to 56 countries. They estimate that it takes 1 full month to make one wig by hand.

Allison Joyce / Getty Images

A woman adjusts wigs on display at Raj Hair International November 11, 2016 in Alinjivakkam, India. Raj Hair International donates wigs to cancer patients in India and also exports hair products, including weaves and wigs, to 56 countries.

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